(Memphis) The votes are in and the Shelby County sales tax referendum on the November ballot was defeated 69% to 31%.
It means at least a 23 million dollar loss for Memphis.
Now city leaders, who initially pushed their own city sales tax, must figure out what’s next.
“We could still call for a special election on a city only tax increase. It’s undetermined yet. You gotta look at the margin. It was pretty severe. Gotta take that into account,” says Memphis City Council Member Shea Flinn.
By a 2-to-1 margin, voters showed they don’t want to pay more sales taxes.
So, the city must now turn to raising property taxes, which doesn’t need voter approval, or cut services, like fire and police.
“That is the last place you go, but when you look at where employees are, there are over 60-percent of the entire city budget in police and fire,” says Flinn.
But Memphis Police Association President Michael Williams says not so fast, “If you want to cut, cut police and fire, that is your prerogative. The only people to suffer are the citizens of Memphis.”
He says the force is already down 200 officers, and salaries and benefits have been cut.
Any more, and you may see higher crime.
“The call load has increased not decreased. You have less officers answering more calls. Less officers are available to be proactive as opposed to reactive,” said Williams.
“We know there will be a loud voice against cutting services, but at some point we are gonna have to make some hard decisions,” says Flinn.
The earliest the City of Memphis could put a city sponsored sales tax up for a vote is in five months, around May.
Expect to hear plenty about this issue in the coming weeks.
In January, property appraisals are out and the city expects them to be lower, bringing in less revenue.
That means that property tax hike can also likely be back on the table.